Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Mars and Beyond (1957)

Walt Disney opens the Disneyland TV program Mars and Beyond by asking, "Will we find planets with only a low form of vegetable life or will there be mechanical robots controlled by super intelligent beings?"
"Even though scientists think Martian conditions are severe, they believe that if man journeyed to Mars he could survive here with moderate protection... life [on Mars] could be almost normal inside pressurized houses and pressurized cities."
"Today, as we face the problems of over-population and depletion of natural resources the possibility of Mars becoming a new frontier is of increasing importance in our plans for the future."
You can view a clip of the program here and you can find this program in its entirety on the DVD set Walt Disney Treasures - Tomorrowland: Disney in Space and Beyond. The program originally aired on December 4, 1957 and was eventually released theatrically.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Journey Into Space (TIME Magazine, 1952)

"Pressure suits will improve, say the space doctors, but not enough to permit their wearers to work freely in a vacuum for long periods of time. Dr. Fritz Haber of the School of Space Medicine believes that the whole space-suit idea will have to be abandoned. If space men want to float around outside their space ship (as they did in the movie, Destination Moon), they will have to stay inside rigid cylinders and do their work by remote-control devices operated from inside."

The entire article from the December 8, 1952 issue of TIME magazine can be read here.

Monorails at Disneyland (1959 and 1960)

Stuff From the Park has some great vintage Disneyland photos including the one pictured above of the Monorails traveling over Submarine Lagoon from 1959. Gorillas Don't Blog also has some great old Disneyland pictures including the one below from 1960. I still wonder if all the Monorails in the respective Disney parks are considered by the general public to be transportation or a novelty attraction.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Champion Paper: Protecting You From the Tyrannical Future Government (Newsweek, 1979)

I came across a rather bizarre ad recently in the October 15, 1979 edition of Newsweek. It's for a company called Champion which now looks to be a part of the International Paper Company.

The ad is utterly perplexing.

"In the future, incredibly expensive technology could enable a few people to live for 200 years or more. Who will be chosen? And, who will choose?"

Why would a paper company take out such a bizarre ad? Because, "...we are a forest products company, and plant seeds that take up to 50 years to become mature trees, Champion International has to think a lot about the future."

A Glimpse of the Year 2000 (New York Times, 1982)

"'You will definitely see this returning to a more human scale society,' said Hazel Henderson, a freelance futurist, from her post in Gainesville, Fla. 'It will be more effecient [to] do things locally. It won't make sense to buy Wonder Bread baked in Illinois'"

That prediction couldn't have been more wrong. Today our food travels further than ever.

If you have a TimesSelect subscription you can read the entire article here.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Syd Mead

As a robot designer for Short Circuit, concept artist for Tron, a production illustrator for the first Star Trek movie and a "visual futurist" for Blade Runner, Syd Mead has contributed to the paleo-future through some amazing movies.

Flickrtarian Michael Heilemann recently posted a set of Syd Mead concept art. Be sure to check out the Paleo-Future Flickr group started by trixiebedlam.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Donald Duck's "Modern Inventions" (1937)

Disney's 1937 animated short film, "Modern Inventions," opens with Donald Duck entering a Museum of Modern Marvels. Emphasizing automation and robots, the short has a lot in common with the Fleischer Brother's, "All's Fair at the Fair," which we looked at earlier in the week.

The museum is full of wonderfully ridiculous inventions from the future such as the pneumatic pencil sharpener, peanut sheller, robotic nurse maid, old razor blade mangler, robotic hitch-hiker's aid, potato peeler, the hydraulic potato peeler, mechanical bottle opener, and the automatic bundle wrapper.

You can watch a clip of "Modern Inventions" here and you can find the short on the DVD set Walt Disney Treasures - The Chronological Donald, Volume 1 (1934-1941).

More Space Colony Art (1970s)

The NASA Ames Research Center has more 1970s space colony artwork, some of which was featured last week in the post about Donald Davis.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Desolation Row (Color)

CantikFotos has posted a color photo of the amazing Desolation Row in Taiwan. Like the view from Google Maps the new image adds another level of paleo-futuristic wonder to the development.

What to do with all this leisure time? (1966)

"By 2000, the machines will be producing so much that everyone in the U.S. will, in effect, be independently wealthy. With Government benefits, even nonworking families will have, by one estimate, an annual income of $30,000-$40,000 (in 1966 dollars). How to use leisure meaningfully will be a major problem, and Herman Kahn foresees a pleasure-oriented society full of 'wholesome degeneracy.'"

The entire article from the February 25, 1966 issue of TIME can be read here.

For the record, $40,000 in 1966 dollars is the equivalent of just under $250,000 in 2007 dollars, according to the Inflation Calculator.

Motorola Television (1961-1963)

The Motorola television ads below ran in Life magazine and The Saturday Evening Post from 1961 until 1963. These, along with other print ads from the Golden Age of Television can be found in the book Window to the Future by Steve Kosareff. The illustrations posted here are all by Charles Schridde.

The illustrations all have a very clean look. The TV is obviously quite prominently displayed and people seem to be enjoying themselves. The boy in the aquarium intrigues me the most. Is he so enthralled by television that he can't stay away from it long enough to enjoy swimming in the futuristic pool attached to his house?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Jet Pack Video (1966)

A friend of mine contends that jet packs were the Segways of the 20th century. They promised to change the way that people traveled but were really just a novelty. I must confess that I find Segways fun, (no matter how nerdy I might look), and would love to try a jet pack if given the chance.

On second thought, I might let Buck Rogers have all the fun for now.

The Fearless Futurist (New York Times, 1968)

The September 5, 1968 New York Times had a book review titled, "The Fearless Futurist," about Amaury de Riencourt and his book, The American Empire. Riencourt's vision for the future may not seem altogether revolutionary for modern readers but I guess his was the most desired option in the Cold War-era world.

The journalist writes about Riencourt:
"All moaning doomsters to the contrary notwithstanding, the world is quite likely to go on. And as he sees it, the United States and the Soviet Union are one day going to run it fairly peaceably as something like twin-governesses, I gather, to the fractious children of the earth."

If you have a TimesSelect subscription you can read the entire article here.

All's Fair at the Fair (1938)

The world presented in the 1938 cartoon All's Fair at the Fair is one of automation and robots. We see the World's Fair through the eyes of an adoring couple, impressed by the promises of the future.

The future is full of robots, specializing in cutting hair, shaving, teaching humans to dance, and otherwise perfecting humanity. All's Fair at the Fair offers that special brand of optimism I imagine the world needed in 1938. We will explore the real-life versions of the paleo-futuristic World's Fairs in future posts. Check out the short cartoon here.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

'Flying Saucer' Buses (1950)

I found the book Do You Remember Technology? at a used bookstore this weekend. It included this Science and Mechanics cover from the December, 1950 issue. Flying saucer buses? Maybe not the most practical cover for, "The Magazine That Shows You How," but certainly paleo-futuristic.

Men in Black Hate iTunes

Agent Kay: "This is a fascinating little gadget. These are going to replace CDs soon. I guess I'll have to buy the White Album again."

It's funny to think that a movie like Men in Black, produced just ten years ago, could not forsee the very rapid changes the music industry was about to go through. The CD was not eclipsed by something smaller, but rather something virtually invisible; digital files traversing the internet. It makes you wonder what the media landscape could look like in just another ten years. (Or fewer, if technology continues to progress exponentially.)

If iTunes goes DRM-free, like eMusic I certainly have no reason to ever buy a CD again.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Nuclear Holocaust Before 1999

Didn't think it could get any weirder? Someone has found an audio recording of Hal Lindsey lecturing about the "End Times" coming in the 1980s. The LP shares the same title as the book, The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon but doesn't appear to be a direct reading from it.

Talking about the Russians
UFOs and the "Jupiter Effect"
"An all-out nuclear holocaust before 1999."

Many thanks to jayKayEss for links to the audio files.

EPCOT's Horizons

The EPCOT attraction Horizons was a great introduction into the world of paleo-futurism. The ride took you through past visions of the future as well as "present" visions of the future. For this ride the "present" meant 1983, the year it was built.

The ride was permanently closed in 1999 but Horizons is not completely lost. Some have posted video of the ride while others have posted the audio of the attraction in its entirety. Intercot has a complete video ride-through but it's a low-resolution RealPlayer file.

The photos posted are from the book Walt Disney's EPCOT Center: Creating the New World of Tomorrow and actually appear to be scale models likely produced before the ride even opened. One of the most memorable things about the ride was the smell of oranges during the "desert farm" scene pictured below.

The photo caption reads:

Horizon's ride-through attraction culminates in "Tomorrow's Windows," a revealing look into future living styles. This city apartment of the future, [above], boasts a spectacular view of the twenty-first-century skyline. While the man plays a "symphosizer," his wife chats with their daughter via holographic teleview. From the control pod of the desert farm, [below], a woman in a jumpsuit directs the work of robot harvesters. Her desert hovercar is parked behind the control pod.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Machines! Machines! (New York Times, 1927)

I recently found a New York Times article with the headline, "Machines, Machines! The Futurist's Cry!" from December 11, 1927.

The article quotes Signor Azari as saying, "[In the future] ....our food will have to be mainly synthetic and artificial - machine-made. The cities of the future will contain no useless garbage of trees and flowers or loathsome promiscuity of animals, but geometrical buildings in glass and armed cement. Above all, there will be machines, machines, machines!"

It is difficult to imagine the world of 1927, when there was considerable awe in witnessing simple tasks being performed by machines. The technology we take for granted in 2007 were the magical fantasies of 1927.

The article contends, "'Open Sesame' used to be a term belonging to magic: The masters of a machine age are robbing the fairy tale of its ancient glamour. Once it took a magician of considerable ability to lure obedience from things inanimate."

There seemed to be a very real fear that people's jobs were at stake:
"Machines....machines...machines. Two and two into the Ark of the modern world they come: Monsters that almost of themselves turn out the product of a great factory....."

Yet, there was an odd sense of optimism that machines could help the average worker:
" means of cunning mechanisms of many sorts we are everywhere freeing men's hands from the bondage of labor; causing to straighten the backs that are bent in toil."

If you have a TimesSelect subscription you can read the entire article.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Desolation Row

CantikFotos has a great collection of photos from Taiwan of a housing development that was never completed. The set is called Desolation Row and has a companion set called Desolation Row Redux.

Someone posted it to Digg back in July. I contacted the photographer and he didn't know the backstory to the development but "ahfoo" on Digg claims to have lived within walking distance of these buildings. Their theory, which seems most credible, was that a falling out between the business partners led to the development never being finalized.

You can see the development from above via Google Maps.

The Futurists of 1966 Looking Toward A.D. 2000

"Nearly all experts agree that bacterial and viral diseases will have been virtually wiped out. Probably arteriosclerotic heart disease will also have been eliminated. Cells have only a few secrets still hidden from probers, who are confident that before the year 2000 they will have found the secret that causes cancer. The most exciting, and to some the most frightening, prospect is the chemical and electrical treatment of the brain. Dr. David Krech, psychology professor at the University of California, believes that retarded infants will be diagnosed at birth, and chemical therapy will permit them to function as normal people. The memory loss accompanying senility will be eliminated."

The entire article from the February 25, 1966 issue of TIME can be read here.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Space Colonies by Don Davis

Donald Davis was commissioned to do paintings for NASA in the 1970s and is now offering them to the public domain. The "toroidal shaped space colony" above is an incredible piece of paleo-futuristic art from 1975. Click on the images to make them larger or visit his site to see all of his space paintings.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Simpsons go to EPCOT

Fans of Disney's Epcot, (the theme park formerly known as EPCOT Center), seem to fall into three categories:

1. Angry
2. Bored
3. Nostalgic

There are a number of websites devoted to EPCOT that critique the theme park and Disney management for letting it become the laughstock it now seems to be. (For the Simpsons's take, check out the video at the bottom of the post.) Here is a small sampling of those blogs and sites I have come across which seem to make very relevant points.

EPCOT Central

The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon

Every so often you stumble upon a book that makes you wish you were illiterate. In Hal Lindsey's The 1980's: Countdown to Armageddon he boldly proclaims, "The decade of the 1980s could very well be the last decade of history as we know it."

I bought this book (originally published in 1981) at a Goodwill a few years back for the purpose of framing select pages. It always elicits a chuckle by those walking down the hallway of my apartment. While it may be funny to think that a man could write such a ridiculous book it is discouraging to think that this man still has a reputation to speak of. In a just society, this man would have been laughed off the face of the earth.

As a public service I present the most hilarious of Hal Lindsey's claims for why the 1980s may, "be the last decade of history as we know it."

Mr. Lindsey personally met with a super-secret group of computer nerds whose prediction of world demise had mirrored that of Daniel, chapter 11, verses 40-45. (p. 6)

Jim Jones was a false messiah as foretold in the Bible. (p. 21)

Governments all over the world are being overthrown. (p. 23)

By the year 2000 there will not be enough food on earth to keep people alive. (p. 26)

The alignment of the planets will cause weather pattern shifts. (p. 28)

Three Rabbis in 1980 all had the same dream of a messiah coming. (p. 48)

UFOs are real and, "demons will stage a human spacecraft landing on earth." (p. 33)

Communism in the U.S.S.R. will overtake American dominace on the world stage. (p. 81)

The U.S. itself will be "taken over by communists." (p.132)

The U.S. could be "destroyed by a surprise Soviet nuclear attack." (p.132)

The U.S. could "become a dependent of the 10-nation European confederacy." (p. 132)

Needless to say, everything that Mr. Lindsey predicted came true and everyone in the United States that was a true-believing Christian was raptured into the heavens after the great 1980's Soviet attack upon U.S. soil (in which demon-aliens were involved. Don't forget the demon-aliens and their human spacecraft).

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Proposed Amendments to the U.S. Constitution

While flipping through my pocket-size U.S. constitution I came across a section about amendments that were proposed but never ratified. There have been over 10,000 such proposals since 1789 and, "fewer than one percent of them have received enough support to actually go through the constitutional ratification process." Looking through this abbreviated list I can't help but wonder what the United States would look like if any one of these had passed. I would love to read a short story featuring any number of these proposed amendments.

1876: An attempt to abolish the United States Senate

1876: The forbidding of religious leaders from occupying a governmental office or receiving federal funding

1878: An Executive Council of Three to replace the office of president

1893: Renaming this nation "The United States of the Earth"

1893: Abolishing the United States Army and Navy

1894: Acknowledging that the Constitution recognize God and Jesus Christ as the supreme authorities in human affairs

1912: Making marriage between races illegal

1914: Finding divorce to be illegal

1916: All acts of war should be put to a national vote. Anyone voting yes has to register as a volunteer for service in the United States Army.

1933: An attempt to limit personal wealth to $1 million

1936: An attempt to allow the American people to vote on whether or not the United States should go to war

1938: The forbidding of drunkeness in the United States and all of its territories

1947: The income tax maximum for an individual should not exceed 25%

1948: The right of citizens to segregate themselves from others

1971: American citizens should have the alienable right to an environment free of pollution

Any favorites?

The Future World of Transportation

I remember checking out this book at my elementary school library and being fascinated with the prospect of futuristic transportation. In the second grade I even did a science project on "Cars in the Year 2000." (In 1992, the year 2000 still had some significance to a second grader.) My cars traveled on an electric grid throughout cities. Nowadays, my hope for the technology of the future mostly resides in ideas like wireless power and the prospect of setting up wireless power grids, much like the wireless internet infrastructure some cities are adopting.

Chapter 1 of The Future World of Transportation opens with the ambitious "Report from the Year 2050." Their future is filled with "Ultra Jets" (described in the glossary as a double-decker plane of the future which loads passengers and cargo while hovering in the air) and "autoplanes" (a combination airplane and car) but, "there is still only one terminal for space flight, the Earth International Space Port near Tucson, Arizona [which is] used largely by people who have business on the satellite space stations, or 'space-habs' or by those going to one of the new space station resorts."

The second chapter is basically an advertisement for the now defunct World of Motion ride at EPCOT Center in Walt Disney World while the third chapter explores the history of transportation from the invention of the wheel to "current" flight technology. The fourth chapter is called "Moving Ahead on Land" and starts getting into some great paleo-futuristic territory with the "Planetran, a sleek magnetic levitation train propelled by electromagnets, [that could] whisk passengers from New York to Los Angeles through underground tunnels in less than an hour." Now that's what I'm talking about.

The fifth chapter explores "The Future at Sea" and basically guarantees the young readers that they will see three-wheeled land/sea vehicles powered by water jets in their lifetimes. The idea of their "floating hotel" is the most intriguing, as it appears that the hotel itself could, "move between ports on a cushion of air at 50 miles per hour." There appears to be no explanation necessary as to why someone would want a moving hotel in the paleo-future.

Chapter six lays out the somewhat mundane history of speed on land, sea and in the air but gets into amazing paleo-futuristic territory with the demonstration of a WASP or Williams Aerial Systems Platform which, according to the glossary is "a one-person flying device that is powered by a small turbofan engine." Personal rocket packs, here we come.

The book ends with a chapter called "Giant Steps into Space" which, as we all know, is the final frontier. Again, I can't help but wonder if any publisher could put out such an earnest and optimistic book for children today. The sincerity with which this book addresses the beautiful technology to come is astounding. Part of me laughs off everything in this book as fanciful and naive dreaming. Another part of me longs for that cynicism to be overtaken by hope for the future and the desire to again be amazed. Because, if the iPhone is the only thing that will revolutionize the way we live (as I believe on some level it will) we seem to be far from the "future" EPCOT sold us in 1982.

(I also own The Future World of Agriculture and The Future World of Energy, so don't you worry, those are coming soon. Also, I'll Flickrize more photos from this great collection when I find more time.)

Ray Kurzweil: The Paleo-Futurist of Tomorrow

I guess, by the logic of that headline, Ray Kurzweil would be the futurist of today. Just thought I'd share a fascinating interview with him from December 23, 2005.

Monday, February 12, 2007


I downloaded an episode of the first season of The Jetsons yesterday. It occurred to me that there is nothing more paleo-futuristic than the pneumatic tubes used to transport the characters. I can't wait until the world of transportation catches up to 1960s bank teller technology.

According to the Wikipedia post I linked to, (and who doesn't trust Wikipedia?), Jules Verne and Edward Bellamy both used pneumatic tubes in their 19th century novels. Flying cars, protein bars and pneumatic tubes are the dreams the paleo-future was built on.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy

I started reading the 1888 classic utopian novel Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy. I'll be blogging about it on a "whenever I damn well feel like it" basis and I invite you to follow along at home. You can either read it free here or here or you can do what I did and buy a cheap copy on Amazon.

The book is set in the far distant future of 2000 when the inhumane practices of captialism have been replaced by a compassionate, human-centered post-capitalist utopia. What drew me to the novel was the fact that it was the most read book of its time and clearly speaks to an alienated public of industrial workers with hope that the future would be better. We can debate the political realities of such a situation all day long but again, I marvel at a world filled with hope for the future. It makes me wonder what a utopian society of 2100 envisioned in 2007 would look like.

Follow along if you please. I'm assuming I'll do a few chapters a week.


(Note: The second free version of the book I link to appears to be from some Christian cult but I found their formatting to be superior to the Gutenberg/first link version. Just a warning.)

Friday, February 9, 2007

Astuter Computer Revue

I don't remember much about Communicore at EPCOT in Walt Disney World. It closed in 1993 and was converted into the half-rate Innoventions Pavillion. However, I did find a little gem of a song that was featured in the Communicore exhibit for just a few short years. The song is called The Computer Song and was composed by the Sherman Brothers, best known for their work on the Mary Poppins and Parent Trap films as well as classic Disney rides like the Enchanted Tiki Room, Carousel of Progress and Journey Into Imagination. The song played at the Astuter Computer Revue attraction.

The song praises the computer for "making life easier" as well as "saving time and headaches." When was the last time you thought of your personal computer that way? The computer noises are priceless. Ah, the beautiful paleo-future. Don't forget to click on "Astuter Computer Revue" to listen to the song in its entirety.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

The Most Well-Documented Lives in History

Today we have two men that are either geniuses or completely crazy. While that fine line is usually difficult to discern in any worthwhile endeavor it is especially difficult in the context of futurism.

We begin with Richard Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983), perhaps most famous for inventing the geodesic dome. What may be most compelling about the man was his fascination with documenting his own life. Stanford University Libraries acquired Fuller's archives in 1999. In what is called the Dymaxion Chronofile, Fuller was obsessive about documenting everything that happened to him.

Started in 1917, the Chronofile was "a massive scrapbook that included copies of all his incoming and outgoing correspondence, newspaper clippings, notes and sketches and even dry cleaning bills." Fuller continued the Chronofile until his death in 1983 at which time he had created/accumulated 270 linear feet of documentation.

Our next madman/genius does not measure his life in linear feet, but rather gigabytes. 72-year old Microsoft researcher Gordon Bell uses the custom-designed software MyLifeBits to document every piece of his life. He has a camera that hangs from his neck which takes a picture every 60 seconds, a scanner which digitizes all his paper documents, a modified phone tap for phone calls, and a digital audio recorder for constant everyday conversational recording.

The November, 2006 issue of Fast Company even had him on the cover and did a pretty incredible piece on his crazy endeavor. At the end of the day I tend to side with skeptics in the article that argue, "forgetting is how we make sense of life."

There needs to be some kind of balance. I value my photographs above all my other possessions on earth. It scares me that a single fire could wipe out all of my negatives from 1998-2002 and a couple hard drive malfunctions could erase all of my digital photos I haven't stored on Flickr. The fragility of memory makes these things valuable to me. If I had a massive database that cataloged every image I saw in 60 second intervals I would probably lose attatchment to the images that document my life on a far less frequent basis.

Where does that leave the lives of others and the documents we cherish? I value the single photograph I have of my great-great grandparents from Slovenia but I would love to see what their day-to-day lives were like. Again, I truly believe balance is the key. Balanced or not, Fuller and Bell may give us a sneak peek into the future of memory.


If you're looking for more information on Buckminster Fuller:
To my amazement, Stanford University has an audio-visual collection online about Fuller as well. You will have to register (for free) but I would suggest checking it out if you get a chance.